Apoptosis Removes Chick Embryo Tail Gut and Remnant of the Primitive Streak

Sue Ann Miller and Ailish Briglin
Department of Biology, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY


Developmental Dynamics 206:212-218 (1996)

Removal of transient features in morphogenesis of chick embryo tail is by programmed cell death. We used ApopTag™ (Oncor®, Gaithersburg, MD) with the peroxidase/DAB procedure to correlate apoptosis with earlier reports of patterns of cell death in stage HH17-25 embryos, and our results suggest that the cell death inferred with supravital staining and appearance of cells in morphogenesis of the tail bud is programmed cell death called apoptosis.

Apoptosis markers in tail bud are most abundant in the median cell cord of occluded, degenerating tail gut. Tail bud mesenchyme marks for apoptosis most frequently in the ventrum of older stages, where cell death has been reported. Cells of the remnant of the primitive streak (Hensen's Node) mark for apoptosis, suggesting that programmed cell death is a stop signal for axial organization at the caudal terminus. Apoptosis markers in postmembrane cloacal endoderm anticipate the transient cloacal fenestra. Lack of apoptosis markers in neural tube, notochord, and somites supports the suggestion of Schoenwolf (1981) that cells of those areas in the tail bud are assimilated into the growing rump of the chick embryo. Lack of markers in neural tube of tail bud formed by secondary neurulation suggests that apoptosis is not involved in cavitation of medullary cord, but further investigation is necessary.

A limited investigation of pharyngeal membranes and midgut, where cell death has not been reported as important in morphogenesis, did not show apoptosis markers in those tissues (Miller and Briglin, 1994). Absence of apoptosis markers in roof of gut tube suggests that the lower frequency of thymidine labeling reported for those cells (Miller, 1986) is not a result of apoptosis. Clearly marked cells correlate with expected locations of migrating neural crest and primordial germ cells in these stages, but distribution of apoptosis markers was not abundant or general for either cell type.

[Note: Color prints are in the publication, but black and white may show details better in this format. I installed both color and a black and white versions of each figure until I have more time to work on my scanning skills and to decide which is most effective in this presentation.]

Figure 1. Stage 21; tail bud and cloaca. Brown apoptosis markers are concentrated along median site of degenerating tail gut and in ventral tail bud mesenchyme near the site of the remnant of the primitive streak. Cloacal plate does not mark for apoptosis. Bar = 100 µm

Figure 2. Stage 22; tail bud and cloacal area. Brown apoptosis markers are more frequent in concentration at the site of degenerating tail gut and remnant of primitive streak. Mesenchyme in proximal and ventral tail bud adjacent to cloacal plate shows frequent markers of apoptosis. Bar = 100 µm

Grant sponsor: Howard Hughes Medical Research Foundation; Grant sponsor: Sigma Xi; Grant sponsor: The Casstevens Family Fund; Grant sponsor: Hamilton College Faculty Research Funds; Grant sponsor: The Hamilton College Academic Fund for Seniors.

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